ROAD TEST REPORT AND REVIEW: ALFA ROMEO CLOVERLEAF
With a rich history, the Cloverleaf is a lot to live up – motoring writer KEITH WARD finds out if it makes the grade.
WE are into the image of great motor sporting heritage here. The original 1950’s Giulietta is rated inside the Italian company as the first model to transport Alfa style and performance from race circuit to showroom.
That green four-leaf clover, designating top trim in today’s range, first appeared in 1923. Competition driver Ugo Sivocci had it painted for good luck on what went on to be his first winning entry in the Targa Fiorio.
To all those car badge collectors on e-bay: Is there a smarter emblem anywhere than Alfa’s: combining the red cross on white of a crusader and a green serpent, based on the coat of arms of Milan, its home city?
Drive an Alfa and you find people ogling it, responding to its swagger . The mechanic with a Japanese competitor at an event I attended positively drooled over the Giulietta’s special red paintwork and exposed brake callipers to match.
If the exhaust note from the big-bore tailpipes is not as rasping as it used to be, there’s still the jaunty air of the front number plate, worn cockily to the side. So much for appeal. to the heart. For those customers whose heads rule, Alfa via its parent Fiat group is striving to improve reliability of its cars and the service from its dealers, both low-scoring in consumer surveys.
The latest Giulietta, on a new chassis eventually to be shared with the next Fiat Brava, could be taken for a two-door coupe. It’s actually a five-door hatchback with the rear door handles concealed and rear headroom restricted, competing in the Golf-Focus-Astra sector.
From a 13-strong range starting at £17,450, taking in three petrol and three diesel engines and four levels of trim, our test car was top of the heap, with the heartiest 235 bhp petrol unit in the poshest Cloverleaf garb, at a whisker under £25,000.
That does get you sporty features such as side skirts, aluminium kick plates and pedals plus an extra-lowered sports suspension for railtrack cornering on 18-inch alloys. All this in a hot hatch a mite quicker than a Golf GTI, at around the same price.
But it leaves you still to choose from a host of options at extra cost, such as sports leather upholstery with extra comfy seats at £2,680 and sat-nav on a pop-up screen at £1,230.
As you would expect out of the fashion capital of Milan, there’s a sense of style about the instruments and switches stretching across an elegant dash, even if some take getting used to, until you know whether to push, turn or trip. And when that screen pops up, it rather spoils the line, like an unwanted bulge below the haute couture of a Milanese mannequin.
There’s red-stitched leather on the steering wheel and on the sports gearknob, there to stir pleasurably the six-cog manual box. Alongside is a chrome switch for Alfa’s so-called DNA system, which can further sharpen steering and throttle response, or adapt to slippery conditions.
THE VITAL STATISTICS
Model Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1750 TBi Cloverleaf
Body Five-door, five-seat sports hatchback; weight 1,320 kg
Size 4,351 mm long; 1,798 mm wide; 1,465 mm high; boot 350 litres
Engine Petrol; 1,742 cc; direct injection; turbo; 6-speed manual
Power 235 bhp @ 5,500 rpm; max torque 300 Nm (normal); 340 (DNA dynamique setting)
Pace 150 mph; 0-62 in 6.8 secs
MPG On test 32.7; Official combined 37.2; tank 60litres CO2 177 g/km; annual disc £300 then £200; BIK tax liability 24 per cent;
Tyres 225/40; R18
Insurance Group 31
Warranty 36 months; 8 yrs anti-rust; 3 yrs paint; 3 yrs breakdown Europe-wide